The Mommy Track Divides: The Impact of Childbearing on Wages of Women of Differing Skill Levels
This paper explores how the wage and career consequences of motherhood differ by skill and timing. Past work has often found smaller or even negligible effects from childbearing for high-skill women, but we find the opposite. Wage trajectories diverge sharply for high scoring women after, but not before, they have children, while there is little change for low-skill women. It appears that the lifetime costs of childbearing, especially early childbearing, are particularly high for skilled women. These differential costs of childbearing may account for the far greater tendency of high-skill women to delay or avoid childbearing altogether.
The Russell Sage Foundation generously supported this work. We wish to thank Cece Conrad, David Cutler, Kathy Edin, Paula England, Nancy Folbre, Richard Freeman, Frank Furstenberg, Irv Garfinkel, Jennifer Hochschild, Christopher Jencks, Sara McLanahan, Ron Mincy, Theda Skocpol, Tim Smeeding, Sid Verba, Eric Wanner, Bob Willis, and participants at the Harvard Inequality Seminar and the Social Policy Seminar at the Columbia University Population Research Center. Ashwin Prabhu and Lindsay Speros provided excellent research assistance. The views expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Bureau of Economic Research.
- Women [who score in the upper third on a standardized test] have a net 8 percent reduction in pay during the first five years after...